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Nov. 12, 2009 Volume 31, No. 12

Newsy works to bust bias


Newsy's iPhone application strikes a chord

In early October, Columbia-based launched their Apple iPhone application — what the wired world calls an “app” — which has been steadily climbing the rankings for most popular free news applications, peaking at fifth place. Among its competitors are the Wall Street Journal’s application, the New York Times’, and The Huffington Post’s.

Max Carratura, Newsy’s vice president of finance and business operations says, “For us, it’s recognition of what we’re trying to do: the quality of content we’re trying to put out and the coolness of our app.”

Last year, Jim Spencer, MA ’91, launched to address journalistic bias in video news. The site analyzes news videos from national and international outlets and combines them with in-depth analysis to form short video packages, which represent multiple views on a particular story. In addition, Newsy offers two classes through the journalism school in which students can hone their video editing and marketing skills, working alongside the Newsy team. 

Alexandra Wharton, the vice president of marketing and community, calls Newsy’s service “video-snacking,” because both the Web site and the mobile application serve up news-video compilations, most of which are perfectly bite-size at around three minutes in length.

“We definitely struck a chord,” she says. “Newsy is in the right space at the right time to benefit from increased demand for online video and mobile news.”

Carratura says that the launch of the iPhone application was part of a three-pronged strategy. The next two phases of this plan include an application for Android (a mobile operating system owned by Google), and a mobile site that can be accessed by mobile web browsers. Additionally, he says the company is looking into developing an application specifically for BlackBerry phones.

The original Newsy iPhone application was developed by Tony Brown, an MU senior majoring in journalism, and Peng Zhuang, a computer science graduate student. Both students were part of the last year’s winning team in the Reynolds Journalism Institute’s Student iPhone Development Competition. For the competition, their team developed an iPhone application, NearBuy, a real-estate application that shows listings on a map and has currently received more than 120,000 downloads.

Brown says he worked with Jim Spencer, the company’s president and founder, to help Newsy in “taking the next mobile step.” He then recruited his teammate Zhuang to help create the application.

“We’re still very closely involved with all of their mobile strategy,” Brown says. — Claire Hanan